For the 170,000 claimants who’ve already received an emergency payout and are deciding between a final payment or to continue applying for interim payments, Ken Feinberg, arbitrator of the $20 billion dollar BP oil spill fund, has come up with his newest option: the quick payment. This would provide $5000 dollars to individuals and $25,000 dollars to businesses within two weeks, no further documentation needed and no questions asked, but like all things Ken, this third option comes with strings. To accept, the claimant is forced to agree they won’t sue BP.
Feinberg is starting to sound more and more like an advertisement for payday loans, and like the people in desperate financial straits those organizations prey upon, Gulf Coast residents losing everything may be tempted to take Feinberg up on his new deal. Yes, predatory lenders know what they’re doing and apparently, so did BP when they hired Feinberg.
In the words of Keath Ladner, a Mississippi seafood processor, “I think that’s the perfect definition of extortion.” Ladner said his claim for roughly $1.7 million has been pending for three months, and the losses keep growing. Though receiving an emergency payment, he feels like Feinberg is keeping people like him waiting for money so they have to accept any “scraps.” The money “wouldn’t even cover my past due rent expenses,” Ladner said.
Feinberg claims he came up with this third option to try to keep the dockets cleared for more complicated claims, but plaintiff attorneys are already calling bullshit on that, “Today’s announcement further illustrates that Ken Feinberg’s primary goal is not to provide claimants with full and just compensation, but rather to clear the GCCF’s and BP’s books as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible — in the midst of the holiday season when many claimants find themselves in dire straits,” said Steve Herman, whose firm is handling the multi-district litigation in federal court in New Orleans.
Worse, Feinberg continues to demand people make these lifetime decisions in the dark.
Despite repeated calls for transparency in the claims process from residents, politicians and the justice department, Feinberg still has not put out any protocols to explain how he is making his decisions. The people who have to make these choices have no guidelines to work with, no way to judge which option would most likely be to their benefit. In this gamble for their financial lives, Feinberg is engaged in a game of poker where he won’t even let residents and businesses see their own cards.
According to this article in the Times-Picayune, Feinberg is considering being more transparent: “It’s difficult to draw a hard-and-fast rule on the eligibility issue,” Feinberg said, “But maybe I ought to provide some sort of guidance online because inconsistent application of eligibility rules promotes criticism.”
And the saddest thing in this whole process, of the 460,000 claims submitted, the GCCF has denied 233,000 outright, mostly for poor documentation. Those denied don’t get to even make any of these choices. Their only option is to appeal. All those promises of being more generous than BP, of being the man coming down to the Gulf to help people get financially back to normal are ringing as hollow as his new third option.
If Feinberg is capable of changing the rules, why won’t he step up and waive the no-sue clauses? If he is fairly compensating people as he so claims, what’s the problem?
When it comes to the Gulf Coast, it would appear the only organization who’ll be enjoying Christmas this year is British Petroleum. Every denial by Feinberg means more of the claims fund will be returned to their already rich and again profitable coffers. Oh, and Feinberg will celebrate too; his firm is being paid $850,000 dollars a month by British Petroleum.
Mr. Feinberg, in his decision-making responsibilities has previously compared himself to King Solomon, that famous, wise, and truly neutral arbitrator. Yeah, well…whereas it must be good to be the king, it would appear Ken shares few of Solomon’s traits.
Feinberg’s just a predatory compensator.
Have a nice day.